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Leadership the Sven-Goran Eriksson way – review


Title: Leadership the Sven-Goran Eriksson Way
Authors: Julian Birkinshaw and Stuart Crainer, 2002
Publisher: Capstone Publishing Ltd (a Wiley company)
ISBN: 1-84112-419-2
Price: £12.99

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The book is written on one main premise: the Scandinavian, and Swedish in particular, style of leadership, in this day and age, is superior to that other nations and cultures. To back up the claim the book uses examples from Sven-Goran Ericksson's coaching career, cleverly inter-mingled and compared with those of successful Swedish companies i.e. IKEA, Ericsson, Absolut etc.

The material certainly gave 'food for thought' and several interesting observations struck a chord with me. In particular these were the motivational style and general calm approach, rather than the US and, perhaps, UK style of emotional, 'up-and-at-em' approach or the more functional, impersonal style of the Germans. In addition there was the need to lead the team, but to have good right hand men and generals (i.e.Tord Grip and David Beckham Grip in Sven-Goran Eriksson's case), whom you can trust and count on. Also to attain and to maintain mutual respect to and from the team without getting too close and becoming one of the boys (i.e. Kevin Keegan). Finally, it would appear that Sven-Goran Eriksson man-management style, by carefully coaching and mentoring his players, , continually gets the best out of each of them individually, without paralysing them with fear of failure.

The main reasons identified behind the Swedish success stories is their cosmopolitan outlook and their own natural tendency to work well together in quite informal structures. Sweden being a small country has had to look outward for markets for its products and this has meant its managers from all fields travelling to sample other cultures, whilst maintaining Swedish traits for teamwork and flexible working. In addition Swedish is not spoken anywhere else hence most speak several languages, language being an integral part of blending in with a culture.

Personally I found that the book grew on me as I read through it. Thinking about some of the best leaders I have worked with, several of the traits related to Sven-Goran Eriksson and others quoted in the book became apparent. There were interesting sections on how the 'Sven test' yourself and your organisation, although some of measures may not apply to all individuals or companies. It was also refreshing to read a business book which strayed from the normal referencing of academic texts and looked at newspaper articles, a number of author interviews, even the FA web-site(!) for material to get its points across.

Following the result against Brazil I now eagerly await Leadership the Felippe Scolari way and the Brazilian business model!


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